I often see M/F in the description of software developer jobs, e.g. in countries like Germany, France, and Switzerland. I assume that m/f means "male or female".

I'm wondering:

  • Why specify that in the job title? Isn't it obvious that both genders are welcome to apply to the job?
  • Wouldn't that be discriminatory towards people that do not identify as male or female?
  • 10
    I don't think it's always as obvious that women are welcome in IT since there are so few. I think it's a (bad) way to say "we aren't a boys only club".
    – Luggage
    Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 15:42
  • 10
    The Belgian Federal Government now even writes out positions with (m/v/x) in the title, so people who don't identify with either m/v know they can apply as well, and mark "x" as gender.
    – Konerak
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 9:47
  • 15
    This actually means "(male/female)"?!? I had always assumed it meant "Monday through Friday", as in "full time". Is this seriously something that indicates the gender for a job outside of performance art (where actual vs apparent gender isn't even the point) or maybe infantry? WOW!
    – zxq9
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 15:37
  • 12
    @zxq9 Did you not take the time to read the answer that explains this is a legal requirement due to gendered nouns in the language itself? Think of the term "fireman" - we use "firefighter" nowadays. Some languages don't have those neutral words for all base words, so they put m/f to make it clear.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 16:58
  • 3
    @zxq9 M-F could possibly mean "Monday through Friday", but not "m/f".
    – Brandin
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 14:18

5 Answers 5


German nouns (including job titles) have a grammatical gender.

A programmer for example would either be "Programmierer" (male version) or "Programmiererin" (female version). It has been common usage to take the male form when you mean both genders, but in recent years, feminism and European gender equality guidelines implemented as German laws (not saying that's a bad thing) have made it mandatory to make clear you mean both genders. So there are a few options in German:

  • Programmierer (m/w)

    (m/w) is for "männlich/weiblich" which means "male/female"

  • Programmierer oder Programmiererin

    Long form, just imagine that with a multi word title like director of operations or something

  • Programmierer(in)

    Abbreviation of long form.

  • Programmierer/in

    Another possible abbreviation of long form.

For IT jobs, Germany tends to use English names more often. Software Engineer for example. Now, appending something like (m/f) would be wrong, because Sotfware Engineer does not have a gender in English. However, once you use it in a German sentence, it will have to have a gender because that is how the German language works. Software Engineer for example will be male according to German grammar rules. Now to be safe, people append (m/w), or the English (m/f) to be consistent, because those 5 letters that can save you from a discrimination lawsuit.

Theoretically, there have been attempts to implement more fairness for those that feel they are neither male nor female, but it has not caught on. Maybe because biologically, it's quite hard to be neither and for those that are, a German law based on a European guideline that regulates job title grammatical genders is not actually on their most pressing problems list.

Updating for the latest developments:

As of October 10th 2017 the highest German court ruled that another gender identifier than just male and/or female must be allowed and people must not discriminate based on that just as they are not allowed to discriminate against people identifying as male or female.

Although the ruling does not specifically concern job ads, companies have picked it up and are now advertising as (m/f/x) or (m/f/d) or it's longer version longer (m/f/divers).

  • 26
    Same thing applies in french. A developper would be "développeur" or "développeuse" for male and female respectively. It's shorter to write "développeur web (H/F)" than "développeur/développeuse web". Some people may assume that the "masculine" version includes both, some may not. Including (H/F) makes it explicit.
    – jcaron
    Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 23:32
  • 5
    That, but also probably as a legal safety : like that, you're sure you can prove you're not discriminating.
    – gazzz0x2z
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 7:53
  • 4
    Same in Hebrew. Most common is the last option - עובד/ת, but many documents have a small disclaimer at the end, similar to This documents uses male for but applies equally to all genders.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 15:41
  • 3
  • 29
    Years ago in Belgium a brothel once got a complaint and changed a sign on the road so it read "Wanted: girls (m/f)"
    – Jan Fabry
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 11:11

The (m/f) can be seen even in Italy because in this language nouns have grammatical gender.

So Programmer is traslated to Programmatore (male) or Programmatrice (female) even if is common to use the male form even for the women who work in this environment.


As per this answer , its because German job titles are gendered, and m/f is just a translation artifact in many cases


The existing answers refer to linguistic arguments. However, a very similar suffix (m/v) is used in Dutch where the linguistic gender is purely theoretic. A quick search turned up that Dutch law requires such an addition, a law which is the implementation of Council Directive 79/7/EEC of 19 December 1978 on the progressive implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security.

So obviously the German, French and Italian advertisements have to follow the same EU regulations.

  • This is the real answer imho.
    – WorksOdd
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 12:56
  • Does it mean that if I find a job position for the same company without m/f it is only allowed to men? Because I found Developer position with m/f but not for manager positions. That makes me think that I should avoid work at that company.
    – ccsakuweb
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 6:57
  • @ccsakuweb: Well, obviously not. But if you have a "good" lawyer, you might make money from this observation.
    – guest
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 23:00

As to the "Wouldn't that come off as discriminating towards people that do not identify as male or female?"

Companies are interested in finding someone to do the job. Decent companies don't care about gender, skin colour, religion and so on as long as it doesn't interfere with the job.

If you don't identify as male or female, it's your choice to assume that this is a decent company that doesn't care about gender and apply and get the job, or don't get the job because someone else was better, or don't get the job because of illegal discrimination and sue them. Or you can assume that there is a conspiracy against you, clearly expressed by stating they accept male and female people. Now the simple fact is that if this company is run by decent people who would have had no problem accepting you, and you accuse them of discrimination when no such thing was ever intended, you are not making friends.

On the other hand, you are welcome to give a complete list of everything you would like added to "m/f" to not discriminate against anybody. And the longer the list, the more likely it is that you actually intend to discriminate against anyone not on the list.

  • 8
    Companies care a lot about their reputation and hiring is hard. Coming off as a discriminating workplace would be a turnoff for me (I'm a cisgender heterosexual (married) male). Here, it is common to write "The job listing is written in male tense, but it applies to all genders equally" (vs the older "both genders"). Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 15:34
  • 1
    Using "m/f" instead of "m/f/d" or maybe "m/f/x" is discriminating and serves them right to get sued - at least in Germany, where there is a legally acknowledged "d" (divers). When the job title would be just "fireman" instead of firefighter, do you think every non-male firefighter would be comfortable to apply for the job without fear of being discriminated against? Decent companies use "m/f/d". Not thinking about this is not decent. Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 16:28
  • 2
    @Burgmeister Actions speak louder than words. Stating "m/f/d" in an advert says exactly nothing whatsoever about the company discriminating or not.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 23:21

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